BRANDON J. WEICHERT | THE WEICHERT REPORT
We’ve all heard the officials giving us the “don’t-worry-be-happy” schtick from Washington, D.C. Ah, yes, we’ll have to just keep calm and carry on for a few more weeks, at least. Push on ahead with normal life but do so with the understanding that things will be different for a while.
I’ve even fallen prey to some of this Happy Talk at times, too.
Let’s get real, though: The Weichert Report has become one of the world’s go-to sources of information pertaining to the COVID-19 spread for the simple fact that this publication has heeded the warnings of top people in the medical field and has made assessments based on these inputs. Given this, it is fair to say that this publication has been anywhere from 2-3 weeks ahead of where the “mainstream” media has been in its reportage. So, in this post I will continue this trend.
Understand: if the Trump administration wants to be successful in preventing what would be the greatest health disaster in this country’s history, then the White House must embrace a total suppression strategy for “flattening the curve.”
But, the price will be our economy.
Of course, if we do nothing and the recent study from the Imperial College ends up being true then, we not only will still sacrifice our economic vitality but also millions of Americans. This study, by the way, is why suddenly the Trump administration and some smart Republicans (such as Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Tom Cotton of Alabama) abandoning their “free market” orthodoxy and embracing things like Andrew Yang’s Universal Basic Income scheme or capital infusions–bailouts–of affected industries.
Right now, we are told, the government is engaged in a “mitigation” strategy for preventing the total outbreak of the COVID-19 strain in the United States. This is voluntary, social distancing and other precautionary measures short of the government’s use of force. It is encouraging and kind. All of it is designed to “flatten the curve” or, rather, to prevent the already overburdened US medical system from being taken to its absolute breaking point. With the highly virulent, unknown COVID-19 strain from China that attacks the respiratory system of all ages this thing has a tendency to destroy the medical infrastructure of any country it is afflicting. Bottlenecks at labs, shortage of ventilators, hospital beds, and medical staff will be profound.
The mitigation strategy is a peaceful middle ground between doing nothing and suppression. Yet, mitigation will not be enough to prevent the swamping of our medical system. That is why the government, I believe, is carefully stage-managing us into accepting the much more deaconing suppression strategy. This strategy isolates symptomatic cases, forcibly quarantines their family members and anyone who has been near these symptomatic cases, and shutting all social gatherings and places of work, learning, etc. We’re partly there already but it still remains mostly voluntary. I expect this to change over the next few weeks.
People, this is how a government stage manages a crisis. It’s also how a regime controls its population. Rather than scaring you all to death, the administration is slowly placing inputs into our system that we are told are merely temporary but, to the contrary, are meant to be permanent until a viable vaccine for the COVID-19 outbreak is found. Even now, multiple companies are feverishly working toward such a cure. One is even being tested on a group of volunteers in Seattle, Wash. Our hopes and prayers are with all of these groups who are engaged in such gallant efforts.
Make no mistake: these efforts are as important as the Manhattan Project was in helping to win the Second World War. The men and women who discover the vaccine will live on in the world’s history books as much as Oppenheimer and Einstein do today.
Although, until a vaccine is officially discovered, we will still be 500-1,000 days (18 months or longer) away from having a reliable defense against COVID-19. In the process, if we are to avoid the heinous impact of COVID-19 as the Imperial College study suggested, total suppression as opposed to mere mitigation will be required long after the summer months begin.
We have all been resting our hopes on the summer months being the time when life can return to normal. And that is certainly a possibility: the administration just might decide that, with so many groups working on a cure it would only be a matter of time before we could find the cure.
The administration might also figure that, since so many people had built up the April/May time period as being the point in which life resumes at its normal tempo, if the social distancing protocols weren’t lifted, riots and breakdown of society would ensure. What’s more, the administration might fear the economic fallout if it kept in place social distancing–and possibly even enhanced such protocols for ensuring that the disease was not spread.
Yet, here is the matter: even if COVID-19 is seasonal and does die down in the warmer summer months, it will not simply abate. The disease will continue propagating–albeit slower than in the colder months of Fall and Winter. But, once the temperatures drop, this will be a different matter entirely.
By the time the first temperatures decline during the Fall the disease, if social distancing is ended by August the latest, will explode in the US and the terrible measurements in the Imperial College study will become a reality. Meanwhile, the economy will drastically plummet again. The very recession that the Trump administration might have sought to avoid by loosening social distancing protocols as it appeared the disease abated in the summer months would, by the Fall, herald a much deeper recession.
Therefore, in order to avoid the disease spread as the Imperial College study indicates, it appears as though the Trump administration decided on a suppression strategy. But, this will not come overnight. After all, the United States is not Communist China. One cannot just lock down the population without a damn good reason–and an invisible killer that has infiltrated the country yet killed a relatively small population is an insufficient threat to warrant the total lockdown of the United States. By mid-April and into May, we should see the extent of just what the first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak will be like.
It would appear that the administration is merely prepping We, The People for the inevitable shutdown of normal life. And it is more than likely that the president and his team are intent on ensuring that fundamental shift from everyday living is maintained beyond the summer months–at least until a vaccine is created, proved to work, and can be effectively and efficiently scaled up to meet the demand. That’s why the work on the vaccine is essential. It is the solution to everything: the threat to public health; the destruction of our vibrant, freewheeling society; and the economic collapse.
Until that time, though, Americans should not only make ready for a new, quieter normal. But they should also prepare for an entirely new economic situation until a vaccine is discovered. At best, in 18 months’ time, there is a viable vaccine and we can all get back to living. But, in that time, there will not only have been a recession (beginning around Quarter 3 of this year, if we keep on the suppression path rather than the mitigation trail) and, more than likely, a depression. This country will endure a medley of tragedy, uncertainty, and chaos one way or the other.
One thing is certain, though, if we do not suppress the disease, according to the modeling from the Imperial College–one study, mind you, but a damn compelling one–we could lose millions of American in the opening three-to-six months alone. The real crisis isn’t even going to be the disease, but the ventilator situation. There will simply be too much of a demand placed on overburdened hospitals to provide ventilators to the sick…and there won’t be enough available. What’s more, of those who go on ventilators, as much as 50 percent could die.
The Trump administration knows all of this which is why every few days they’re coming out and issuing a new input designed to have us all tweak our daily routines and be more aware of changes–and prepared for many more changes over the long-run. Suppression works, according to the Imperial College study. But, suppressing our free society will be hard. Already, thousands of my fellow Floridians have taken their work-from-home orders as an excuse to congregate in large numbers at Florida’s beautiful beaches, thereby destroying the entire purpose of social distancing.
One cannot understand the danger of the economic impact of 18 months (or more) of social distancing. So, be prepared, and as my friend, David Goldman cautioned, “there are opportunities [to invest] but investors should be cautious.”
The Federal Reserve and Trump administration still have a lot of firepower at their disposal. But, I don’t know if they have 18 months or more of firepower. And I’m no longer convinced that anything they do will avert a recession by Q3, or possibly even a depression, unless a viable vaccine is discovered, announced, and made available to the population within the next 18 months.
Then again, the Imperial College study could be total hogwash. Of course, I suspect that Trump won’t bank his presidency on that hope. Would you? Trump’s a risk-taker, but he’s a businessman also. He knows cost-benefit analyses like the best of them. He’ll not take his chances on this one; we’re in for suppression and the writing is already on the wall…it’s just going to take most people a long time to realize this fact.